[By Joel McCarthy]

Does the license plate “MU SS 420” mean anything to you? At first glance, it shouldn’t, that is unless you’re an expert in neo-Nazi symbolism.

Sabine Bamberger-Stemmann would definitely call herself an expert on the subject. She’s also a German public authority and director of Hamburg’s Agency of Civic Education. She thinks that German supermarket Edeka displayed secret license plate codes in their Christmas commercial as a way to sympathize with modern neo-Nazi ideologies.

“The statement being made is very clear,” she told the German press. “It’s staggering that such a large corporation as Edeka can do something like that.”

In Germany, “SS” is forbidden on any license plate because of its relation to the Schutzstaffel, the Nazi paramilitary protection squadron during the Second World War. The number 420 also holds significance, as it is often used by German right-wing circles to abbreviate Adolph Hitler’s birthday, April 20th. A second license plate near the middle of the ad raised similar concerns.

According to Kate Connelly, a Guardian correspondent in Berlin, “Another car in the ad has the number plate SO LL 3849. The 84 is recognised as an abbreviation for the eighth and fourth letters of the alphabet – H and D – signifying the greeting “Heil Deutschland”. The numbers 3 and 9, together as number 39, are said to symbolise Christian identity and stand, by implication, for anti-Semitism.”

The Edeka Corporation quickly responded to these accusations, claiming neo-Nazi symbolism was not their intention.

“The number plate with ‘MU SS’ is a fantasy number plate, based on the title song in our spot,” an Edeka spokesman told German media. “We regret the fact that a wrong impression is created here. This was in no way our intention.”

Over 7 million people viewed the ad in one week. Comment sections exploded, with people either condemning Edeka or defending their claims. Innocent or not, Edeka is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. With far-right nationalism on the rise throughout Germany, the issue is certainly problematic for the company’s brand and public perception.

The lesson here is that Nazi symbolism and PR go together about as well as water and oil in today’s world. Unless Edeka plans on targeting a very specific kind of audience from now on, they might want to reconsider their Christmas marketing strategy for next year. Why not bring back the depressed old man from the 2015 commercial? He went over pretty well.

(Photo via Freepik)